I love public libraries

I come from a family of readers. My parents are always reading and instilled the love of books in their children. My dad will get focused on a book and can read it in one day. I’m not that fast of a reader but I am always reading something and nothing compares to a good book (sorry, Sinead O’connor but you were wrong). 

Once I was old enough to pay my own bills, I realized that reading can be expensive if you are buying all the books you read. Before tablets and Amazon, your options were to buy a book from a local bookstore, borrow a book from a friend or family member, or check one out from the library. I never turn down a free book from a friend or family member but my main book source has been the public library. 

I love reading so much that I just wrote my first book and I wrote most of the book at the public library. I wanted to push myself to do something I had never done before so I started with an e-book and published it about a year ago. 

I got good reception from the friends and family members who read it and so I started thinking about publishing it as a paperback. I connected with one of my friends,Skeeter, who has a publishing company called Night River Press (www.nightriverpress.com) and now my book is about to be published in the next week or so (check it out—Everything I learned about sales I learned from my dog, ISBN #9781734766011).

Being a family of readers, every time I go to visit my parents one of them says, “I just read this great book.  Do you want to read it?” “Yes!”, I always say. My adult self has to stop myself from saying that I have dirty laundry that could use a wash and bills to pay but I’ll take a book handout at any age.

Throughout my life, I have always had a library close to where I live and have always had a library card at the local library. I recently walked into the public library near the house where I grew up (and my parents still live) and realized it was so small. When I was little it seemed so big.  

Since having kids, we have been very lucky to have always lived within walking distance of a public library and it’s always a great outing to take the kids there. Even though my kids are getting older, I still go there once every couple of weeks to get books for myself and/or my kids.  

When each of my three kids started to read, a rite of passage was to take them to the local library and get them their own library card. We took our oldest when we lived in Oakland, our middle child when we lived in DC and our youngest once we moved to Davis. I always get a picture of them holding their new library card, post it on social media and they (and us) are always so proud.

One of the first things I did when I heard that we were going to have to shelter in place in the spring was to go to the library and stock up on books (see attached picture). We got ~20 books that day and I’m so glad we did as our library closed a couple of days later. Our library just opened up again for curbside pick up and drop off other than a week or two in July where you could drop off or pick up pre-ordered books from your car (and I kept thinking, “I’ll do that tomorrow” and never did).

After we cleared out the library in March, my wife suggested we support our local independent bookstore, The Avid Reader, and we all ordered a few books each to support them. Similar to FOMO (fear of missing out) , I had FONHEB (fear of not having enough books). Ok, I just made that anacynym up but it’s true. I almost always have a book or a tablet on me (or in my car or in my work bag) so I can read if I am eating out alone (that kind of solitude only happens on work trips), stuck in a long line like the DMV (what a nightmare!), volunteering at one of our kids’ plays (there’s always downtime) on an airplane (I always have earplugs) or “watching” one of my kids practice gymnastics, soccer. swimming, etc. (I mostly watch but sometimes read).

I often read two books at once as sometimes I’m in the mood for one type of book and sometimes I’m in the mood for another type. I’m currently reading the Game of Thrones series and am on book four. They average ~800 pages a book and it’s a real commitment…but worth it.  I just finished reading Educated (great book) and I have just started White Fragility (a must read). 

I recently discovered that our local library doesn’t charge a late fee on children’s library cards so I started checking out all of our books on my eight-year-old’s card. Sneaky, you say? Smart, I say. I have good intentions of returning books on time but we are busy people and my good intentions don’t always get me to the library to drop off books on time. Not sure what my excuse is for not making it there to drop off books when they were opened for a bit in July and we were sheltering in place but if you give me a minute, I’ll think of something. 

Here are some things I love about libraries:

  • I find the people who work there are very helpful. They all love to read (or they probably would be working somewhere else) so they are usually happy to help with a recommendation. One of my neighbors works at our local library and we always call each other by name when we see each other at the library or walking our dogs around the neighborhood. After about a year (or possibly two) of saying. “Hi, Katherine” when I saw her once a week, she said, “I didn’t know if I should mention it but my name is Margaret, not Katherine”. Again, sometimes my intentions are better than my actions. Now, we both smile when I see her and enthusiastically say, “Hi, Margaret!”. 
  • I’m going to sound old saying this but the library always has a good selection of books on CDs for long drives, either alone or with kids. I used to do that on work drives. I now listen to more podcasts than books (or just ride in silence, which my family thinks is weird) but the free DVDs at the library are always there as an option. 
  • A library secret is a site called Overdrive (www.overdrive.com). You use your library card number to check out books or audiobooks on your tablet for free. We use Audible in our family (which we pay for) so I need to walk the walk and download more on Overdrive for free.  
  • As I mentioned earlier, I use the public library as an extra office space or quiet place to write or get a project done and it’s where I wrote most of my book. Our local library has both a quiet room and little offices that you can reserve.  Before COVID, I would try to go to the library once a week, spend about two hours writing and call it my Mommy Night. Some people would use their night away from their kids to meet friends for drinks, go to a movie or get a mani/pedi but I usually go to the library. I can totally focus on the task at hand and it is one of my happy places.  
  • Public libraries usually have a staff pick section. My kids laugh because I can walk over to the staff pick section and find a book within two minutes. Since people who work at the library love to read, I find their staff picks are usually interesting selections. 
  • Libraries also offer extra services or enrichments other than books. Our library has a free after school program for older elementary school aged kids called The Spot.  We are lucky that our local library is right next to the elementary school where our kids go (or have gone) and there are no streets to cross. Our son loved to go there after school in third and fourth grade and then one of us would pick him up a couple of hours after school ended, which was helpful as two working parents. He loved the independence and we loved the free after care. Our library also offers talks on different subjects, chess tournaments for kids, career help, tax prep and so many other services and supports for the community.
  • Most libraries support their local authors with a local author section or table so I am hoping they will put my new book (Everything I Learned About Sales I Learned From My Dog) on the local author table. In my little world as a book and library lover, it will feel like I have won the lottery if I am on display as a local author. And if I could just win the weekly Cartoon Capture Contest in the New Yorker, my life would be complete.  

There is nothing much that compares to reading a paper book and using a favorite bookmark. I prefer bookmarks that are homemade by my kids but a receipt or a chewing gum wrapper will do in a pinch. 

If you haven’t discovered the joy of your local library, please find yours, get a library card, donate books or money, be nice to the librarians (and, unlike me, try to call them by their correct names), attend their talks or do whatever you can to support them. We should all want them to be well used and stay open for future generations.  

I hope you love libraries as much as I do but if you don’t yet, walk into one, take a deep breath and look at all the books that open up a world of exploration, quietly hum Sinead O’Connor’s, “Nothing compares to you”, and I dare you to tell me that some of the weight of the world didn’t just roll right off your back. 

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